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Succession Planning @Lumiere

A friend in Singapore sends me an email survey. She is invited to speak at an HR Conclave and is gathering data on succession planning. I am intrigued enough to reply on a Saturday morning while on vacation:

  1. Do you think about succession planning in your company?Yes. All the time! Succession planning is indeed planning to succeed. We have a ‘succession planning’ culture and mindset that permeates everything we do. It’s really about making the organization robust with strong culture and processes so that a single individual becomes dispensable. At project level we have a system of back-ups for the project manager so should they have an issue, the team is able to take the project to closure. We have experienced this many times. If we look at the Lumiere journey as a string of projects over the years, each project requires appropriate leadership and resourcing so that the deliverable is managed well and the client is satisfied. Lumiere is highly relevant for people who work for us today and in the future. We are responsible to make sure that the Lumiere opportunity is available for the woman professional for when she needs it. We have also seen people leave us and new people join. Every person is typically groomed to lead her part of the client engagement/ relationship. We give a lot of independence around ground rules, and people are encouraged to do what is in the best long-term interests of the organisation even if it means short term decisions that may seem counter-intuitive.
  2. If yes, when did you start thinking about it? When we hired our first employee, Joice Jones. When Joice came to work for us, we grew 100%, from 1 person, to 2. It allowed me to do more. More face time with clients while Joice was answering phones, working on analysis and writing reports. She was able to bring the multiplier that succession planning allows. I find it easy to teach people and then trust them to do their best. It’s a huge advantage because it allows us to do more and different things without getting stuck, tired or bored.
  3. How are you managing your succession planning?When Milind joined Lumière 10 years ago, it broad-based our leadership. He designed and created processes that were inspired by technology and consulting industry best-practices. We have a team member who has been with the company for 15 years, who is a part of our 3-member leadership team. Senior project managers and back office team members are co-opted for important decisions. People decisions are taken by our four member team, the Resource Desk. Our website and social media activities are managed by a three member team along with an external partner. This helps keep the buzz on Lumiere and allows us to attract the right talent. Given as Lumiere is a life stage opportunity and a crucible to hold talent, people will come and go. While we are not fixated about people and we know that there is nothing permanent, we invest heavily into coaching and mentoring all our team members. What lends a semblance of stability and continuity are strong culture, values and processes. Enculturation and socialisation of new team members is critical for us. All leadership is home-grown and works in taking Lumiere onward.
  4. If no, why not? N.A.
  5. What are your top 3 challenges with succession planning? 1. People continuity and timing:There is never a best time for an exit, so losing key talent when we are in the midst of a critical juncture of project delivery is a challenge. 2. Culture fit: Ensuring we have the right kind of people, with smarts and sensitivity to work at Lumiere. We are extremely lucky. The right people just appear when they’re needed and like a candidate we recently offered a job said, ‘I think I’ve hit the jackpot in finding Lumiere!’ 3. Training: It’s easy to feel let down and disappointed when people exit. Staying upbeat, training and trusting the new person with the same level of passion to take the next project forward.
1992 - 1996
1996
1997 - 2001
1999
2001 - 2007
2013 - 2019
1992-1996

Initiation

Deepa starts working at Hindustan Unilever Ltd., and after working there for a few years decides to take a career break to take care of her son. The family plans to move to Jamaica, and she wishes to resume working. There are not a lot of opportunities post a career break for her, and this makes her realise the plight of women all across the world who are trying to resume working after taking a break. The seed for Lumière is planted. Deepa joins J.A. Young Research Ltd. to get back to her roots, and ultimately decides to start her own firm under her CA's advise.

1996

Beginning

Start of Lumière Consultancy in Jamaica

1997-2001

Incubation

The family is aching to return to India, and post the birth of her second child, Deepa gets an offer from HUL to rejoin them. She has an itch to make it on her own, and so declines. This results in a different type of engagement between the two, and Lumière engages exclusively with HUL by expanding their scope. Deepa builds a stronghold in consumer behavior, and Lumière develops into an entity of its own. Inception of 'Consumer Centricity', which is their future key to strength, begins. With an expansion in their work, they need more resources and a group of like-minded talented professional women to join the team. Lumière gives them solace, a place to grow, rebuild their careers, and achieve goals beyond their expectations. They begin with mentoring initiatives, with an urge to inspire young individuals. People approach them through word-of-mouth, references, and to create opportunities beyong market research, Lumière becomes a Pvt. Ltd. company.

1999

Establishing

An opportunity arises to be a part of something big, to analyse the growth mindset and the creation of a best practice document for sequential recycling. Lumière makes an impact across categories and branches into Product Testing and Category Creation.

2001-2007

Invigoration

Lumière touches ₹ 1 crore. Their brochure is presented at MRSI. The company turns 10, and Milind joins the team as an observer. This becomes the phase of Lumière's upheavel: from scaling up, digitization and automation of processes, to plugging in leakages across departments and accounts. Their billings reach ₹ 3 crores.

2013-2019

Innovation

Rashmi Bansal dedicates a chapter of her book 'Follow Every Rainbow' to Deepa and Lumière. The company enters adulthood, and they facilitate change management for Lumière. The introduction of the Gallup Strengths to the portfolio is a game changer. A revamp of the technological infrastructure ensues, giving way to an articulation of Lumière 3.0.